Everything You Need to Know About Getting Started with AI

In almost every industry, technology is starting to play a bigger and bigger role. While businesses are aware of this, there are still some “intimidating” technologies that they shy away from. Artificial intelligence – or AI – is one of these “intimidating” technologies that many people believe is out to take over their jobs, and instead of learning more about it, they avoid it out of fear.

We’re here to tell you that AI is not going to steal your job, but rather enhance it. In this article, we’ll answer four of the most common questions people have about AI when it comes to business in an effort to break down the barriers and highlight its incredible potential.

What is AI?

Quite simply, artificial intelligence technologies are computational systems that have the ability to perform tasks as humans can. This can range from very simple tasks, like scheduling meetings in your calendar through your Gmail account, to much more complex ones, like driving your car.

AI can be used in various contexts to make many tasks easier. That means it can help streamline your business performance just as easily as it streamlines your personal life through your phone.

In a business setting, machine learning is used to learn from your data to build models that make predictions. Here are a few examples of applications that stem from such predictions:

  • Processing documentation
  • Detecting malware
  • Handling insurance claims
  • Performing legal case research
  • Transferring data from email and call center systems into record systems
  • Predicting what specific customers are likely to buy
  • Running internal sites that answer employee questions on IT, employee benefits and HR policy

Its scope is limitless, which means that it can impact every part of your business. This is exciting because it can remove bottlenecks, and allow you to do more with quicker turnaround times and fewer resources. 

Also read: What is Artificial Intelligence?

How do I get started with AI in my business?

There are a few ways you can approach getting started with AI:

Go at it alone and build up your own in-house team of experts

This can take a long time to get right because you have to find the right people, get them up to speed with your existing systems and then figure out how AI fits in with your business objectives. After all of this, you might have missed the opportunity to solve your problem using AI.

Outsource the work

If you want to get new AI-driven systems up and running quickly, you could contract a team of AI experts to do it for you. However, while they will likely be able to get the job done fast, having an external team come in and integrate new tech that affects existing workflows risks your team dynamics being thrown off and you struggling to get buy-in from your team.

Take a hybrid approach and partner with experts

From what we’ve seen, this is the most effective approach a business can take when looking to get started with AI. The reason for this is because the experts can help you get the job done fast, while simultaneously helping you build long-term solutions that will benefit your team, your tech and your business objectives.

Key factors that partnering with AI experts can help you get right

One of the major benefits of working with AI experts is the holistic approach that they take when setting up this new tech for businesses.

80% of AI projects fail down the line because businesses don’t spend enough time understanding why they need AI and how it could be incorporated into their particular systems to benefit their particular context. This is why working with an expert team from the start is crucial if you’re serious about using AI to drive your business forward.

Bringing in a team of experts from the start can also help you:

  • Spend money on tooling that you can guarantee will benefit your business
  • Get buy-in from your team to maintain a positive company culture

You want to pay for technology that you know will benefit you

When you’re considering AI for the first time, understanding what will work and what won’t can be hard.

There are loads of tooling options out there, so trying to navigate them on your own when you’re unfamiliar with the technology will likely only cost you money. You don’t want to be blindly trying different things in the hopes that something will stick – you want to know for sure that what you’re paying for is going to work for you the first time.

That’s where working with AI specialists is useful. They will be able to help you understand what your needs and objectives are, and then advise you on what technology will work best and how it can be incorporated with your existing systems.

You want to get buy-in from your team

Another important thing to remember is that AI will radically impact your company culture.

Working with AI is not something that the IT team alone handles – it is something that everyone will have to adapt to if you decide to start working with it.

For people whose only understanding of AI is ‘the sentient robot’ that pop culture has made it out to be, introducing it into their day-to-day is bound to be scary.

This is why it’s important to change people’s mindset from “this technology is taking something away from me” to “this technology is working alongside me, allowing me to maximise my potential”. 

Acknowledging that by introducing AI, people’s jobs will be affected can be tough. From what we’ve seen, however, it’s better to be transparent, communicate openly, and start the process of re-skilling or role changing sooner rather than later so that teams can ease into their ‘new normal’. Doing this with empathy can help people feel seen, which will go a long way to helping them feel comfortable with the changes – and even excited! AI specialists are experienced with handling these dynamics, so this is another process they can help you get right.

Note: When looking for a technology partner, you need to make sure you work with a company that specialises in AI. There are many software houses that offer consulting services, but more often than not, they have no direct experience with AI, and will not be able to help you implement the most effective solutions. Their services might be cheaper, but not having the most effective AI integration from the get-go will cost you money in the long run.

How much will implementing AI cost me?

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to AI costs. There are many factors that come into play, and the price tag on each will be different depending on your specific context.

Here are a few examples of what you could be charged for when implementing AI with the help of an expert team:

  • Implementation fee: This fee will be determined based on the scope of the work, and how complicated it is. For example, there might be many phases of the project, or multiple modules to implement.
  • Maintenance fee: Often AI teams will offer a maintenance service once they’ve helped you get you AI systems up and running. As part of this, they will make sure that the models are performing as expected and improve their accuracy over time, which is important if you want to continuously see improved results. 
  • Subscriptions and licenses: Just like other software, AI tooling is often linked to a monthly subscription.
  • Cloud infrastructure: If your business doesn’t have extensive on-site computing resources to facilitate AI systems, you’ll need to pay for cloud-based infrastructure. Most cloud providers, like Google Cloud Platform (GCP), follow a similar pricing model based on actual usage.

How do I effectively scale AI?

If you want your AI systems to be successful, you need to think about their long-term performance from the get-go. 

It’s very easy to get caught up in the novelty of the tech when you first get started, and fixate on the details, but what really matters is how it is going to work once it’s in production.

This might sound obvious, but, according to Forbes, only 14% of firms have deployed AI projects at scale in production. AI-driven projects are complicated and there is a lot of work that goes into setting them up, collecting and cleaning data, building models, training them and fine-tuning them. If these models aren’t pushed to production, all of the work put in goes to waste, costing the business time and money.

Finding solutions to this problem is hard for a lot of companies who don’t have experience with AI, so that’s why it’s worthwhile to consult with AI experts. They’ll jump in and get their hands dirty with the productionising, taking a lot of pressure off your plate.

Deep Learning Café is an AI Consulting Company based in Johannesburg. If you’d like to get in touch with us to discuss how we can help you make AI work for your business, pop us an email. You can also check out our blog here.

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Dries is the founder of the Deep Learning Café. Designing AI and cloud strategies, supported by tools and processes, is at the core of his daily endeavours towards achieving AI excellence.

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